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Location Profiles

Indigo Volunteers partners with organisations across:
Each of these locations have their own unique asylum system, as well as varying climate, culture and Covid-19 regulations. Continue reading for a short introduction to each of our locations

Greece

Islands

The Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos are often asylum seekers’ first entry point into Europe. In order to reach the continent, people often make the dangerous journey by boat from Turkey and land on these Greek islands. The arrival numbers have dropped since their peak in 2015-2016, but still remain high. On the islands, people are placed in Reception and Identification Centres, otherwise known as RIC that are commonly referred to as camps. These government-run facilities provide accommodation, food and some other basic services. There are strict curfews for camp residents and heavy restrictions are applied to movement in and out of the camps and items residents are allowed to bring in. Access to these facilities by non-residents is very limited by camp management due to the regulations set by the Greek Ministry of Migration’s new laws set out in 2019. Therefore, most of Indigo’s partner organisations on the Greek islands operate outside the camps - either within walking distance or sometimes further away with alternative transport options.

The weather on the Greek islands is not to be underestimated. The winters are very cold, windy and rainy, while the summers are extremely hot. Please ensure that you pack appropriately.

The current Covid-19 regulations for travelling to Greece can be found at https://travel.gov.gr/#/. Before and during a volunteer placement, it’s important to keep up with your specific charity to find out about the changing day-to-day regulations.

Mainland

In the mainland of Greece, most of our partner organisations supporting refugees and migrants are located in the cities of Thessaloniki and Athens. However, a few are located in smaller towns such as Ioannina, Serres, Kavala and more. Displaced people arrive to the mainland either after crossing the land border shared with Turkey, or as a next destination from the Greek islands. Since 2020, the Greek government has been transferring people from the overcrowded camps of the islands to facilities in the mainland. Some are living in housing and flats in the cities, while others are staying in the camps just outside the cities. Many people are also experiencing homelessness or staying in insecure housing. The legal status of people on the move in mainland Greece varies. People may: - Have no documentation at all if they crossed the land border with Turkey - Be in the asylum-seeking process; - Have received a second rejection on their asylum application; - Be recognised as refugees. Although some of Indigo’s partners operate inside the camps themselves, most organisations in the mainland operate outside the camps and support a wide range of displaced people.

The weather in Greece is very warm in the summer and can get very cold in the winter. Ensure that you prepare properly to avoid being caught out while you are volunteering.

The current Covid-19 regulations for travelling to Greece can be found at https://travel.gov.gr/#/. Before and during a volunteer placement, it’s important to keep up with your specific charity to find out about the changing day-to-day regulations.

Learn more and stay updated about the situation on the Greek islands:

Learn more and stay updated about the situation on the Greek mainland:

 

Balkans

Since 2015, the Balkan route has become one of the most common entryways to Europe for people on the move. Thousands of people trying to reach Northern and Western Europe via Turkey, Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary take this route. After 2016, when Hungary started strengthening security at its borders, the Western Balkan route was laid through Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Serbia and BiH are not EU Member states, and refugees are often unlawfully and violently “push-backed” from the EU external borders, especially Hungary-Serbia and Croatia-BiH, when trying to continue their journey to safety.

Serbia

Before the closure of the original Balkan route, people were only passing through Serbia to get to other destinations. At the end of 2016, people began getting stuck there for longer than intended as the borders with Hungary closed. The majority of these people were staying in squats and abandoned buildings across the country.Today, around 80% are accommodated in formal asylum centres. These places are not tented camps and have very basic facilities. Meals are provided to people three times a day and some organisations can access these facilities to run recreational activities. Located very far away from town centres, people often have to walk a long way or pay for taxis to access other services.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

The situation for displaced people in BiH is similar to that in Serbia. For a few years, displaced people were living in the Lipa camp near the town of Bihac. This centre was a makeshift camp with abysmal living conditions - no hygiene facilities, heat or food. In November 2021, it was replaced by the new Lipa camp which now offers residents access to basic services.

The climate in the Balkans is very dependent on the season. Summers tend to get hot (around 30 °C) while winters tend to get very cold (around 0 °C). Be aware of this when packing for your trip.

The current COVID-19 regulations for travel to Serbia can be found at https://www.mfa.gov.rs/en/citizens/travel-serbia/covid-19-entry-requirements and the regulations for travelling to BiH at http://www.granpol.gov.ba/Content/Read/74?title=Covid-19. Before and during a volunteer placement in Serbia or BiH, you should keep up with your specific charity to find out about changing day-to-day regulations.

Learn more and stay updated about the situation in the Balkans:

 

France

Northern France has historically been a stopping point for people on the move - many of whom are trying to reach relatives who have made it to the UK. In recent years, both the French and UK sides of the channel have increased government action to prevent this movement. Before Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit), people were trying to cross the border by passing the channel tunnel. In today's post-Brexit world that includes tightened border controls, increasingly more displaced adults and children are attempting to cross via the dangerous sea route. Northern France does not have any formal refugee facilities. After ​​the dismantling of the infamous "Calais Jungle” in 2016, authorities have tried to prevent the appearance of another big refugee camp. Therefore, people aren forced to create and live in multiple smaller settlements. Law enforcement are continuously tasked with breaking down these settlements, often confiscating people’s belongings and arresting them. Sometimes, these evictions can even be violent. With every eviction carried out by the authorities, people are forced to move to different locations. As a result, NGOs and grassroots organisations based in Northern France must often respond to the rapidly changing situation on the ground by adapting their operations. Flexibility is of utmost importance when volunteering in this region and the likelihood of encountering tough situations is high. Volunteers are always advised to check in on their mental health and reach out for support if they need it.

The weather in Northern France is generally cool, rainy and windy all year round but especially in autumn and winter. Make sure to bring appropriate clothing and shoes.

The current COVID-19 regulations for travel to France can be found at https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coming-to-france-your-covid-19-questions-answered/#sommaire_4. Before and during your volunteer placement in France, you should keep up with your specific charity to find out about changing day-to-day regulations.

Learn more and stay updated about the situation in France:

Lebanon

Lebanon is a relatively small Middle Eastern country that hosts the highest number of refugees per capita globally. The estimated population of Lebanon is 5.9 million, while the country hosts around 1.7 million refugees. As of 2020, 1.5 million of hosted refugees are estimated to be from Syria. In an attempt to avoid repeating the history of Palestinian camps and their militarisation, the Lebanese government refused to build formal camps for Syrian refugees and didn't give humanitarian organisations permission to do so either. As a result of this policy, many people are living in informal settlements, with 69% of all informal refugee settlements located in the Bekaa Valley. An increasing number of refugees lack proper documentation which restricts their free movement and access to basic services. This limitation also exposes them to greater risk of harassment and exploitation. Refugees face serious restrictions in obtaining healthcare and paying for food, rent, clothes, medicines and other necessities. Volunteering in Lebanon is different to other regions which Indigo partners operate in. It is crucial for volunteers to understand that this is a location in the MiddleEast, not Europe. Customs and norms are different to what they may be used to and sufficient preparation is required to preserve your mental and physical health while you are on site.

Lebanon has a typical Mediterranean climate characterised by long, hot and dry summers while winters tend to be cool and rainy.

The current COVID-19 regulations for travel to Lebanon can be found at https://www.mea.com.lb/english/covid19-and-travel/. Before and during your volunteer placement in Lebanon, you should keep up with your specific charity to find out about changing day-to-day regulations.

Learn more and stay updated about the situation in Lebanon:

 

Poland

Spring of 2022 was marked by the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine. Since February various humanitarian and press agencies have reported on the war and its consequences. Over 5 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and despite its former anti-immigration policies, Poland has taken in more Ukrainian refugees than any other country. Over 1 million Ukrainian refugees moved to the Polish border regions and although many were welcomed by an initial wave of donations and support by civil society and NGOs, there were many reports of refugees from Global South countries facing social ostracism and denied support. Following the start of the war, rates for electricity and housing in Poland have drastically risen, and financial support for humanitarian aid from the state was cut. This quickly impacted the Polish population as well, who’s huge movement of solidarity is quickly overwhelmed by insecurity and frustration. The humanitarian movement in Poland is at its early stages, and therefore the environment for volunteers is very fast paced. The volunteers are advised to not stay on the ground longer than their capacity allows, and to take close care of their physical and mental health.

Poland has a moderate climate with sunny and warm days in summer, but extremely low temperatures in winter.

The current COVID-19 regulations for travel to Poland can be found at https://www.gov.pl/web/coronavirus/travel. Before and during your volunteer placement in Poland, it is important to keep up with your specific charity to find out about changing day-to-day regulations.

Learn more and stay updated about the situation in the Balkans:

Slovakia

In May 2022, the Slovak government declared the extension of humanitarian aid, specially financial and food distribution, to Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia until the end of the summer. 80.000 people have crossed the border into Slovakia and there is an increased effort to promote mental health. The Slovakian League for Mental Health has created a hotline and started a plan to hire Ukrainian “psychologists, therapists and support staff to communicate with incoming Ukrainian refugees to build trust and help residents.” The warm welcoming has been crucial to support refugees. However, due to the economic difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the inflation brought by the war, there is a noticeable increase in the cost of living. As “in 2019, 78% of the country's imported oil and refined products came from Russia”. It is sure that this will impact the GDP and force a quick integration of Ukrainian refugees into the labour market, which at the moment cannot absorb them. The humanitarian movement in Slovakia is at its early stages, and therefore the environment for volunteers is very fast paced. The volunteers are advised to not stay on the ground longer than their capacity allows, and to take close care of their physical and mental health.

As it is typical in this region, Slovakia’s climate is characterised by warm dry summers and cold winters.

The current COVID-19 regulations for travel to Slovakia can be found at https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/travel-and-covid/slovakia/. Before and during your volunteer placement in Slovakia, it is important to keep up with your specific charity to find out about changing day-to-day regulations.

Learn more and stay updated about the situation in Slovakia:

 

United Kingdom

Since Brexit, the UK has attempted to tighten immigration through legislation. The most recent (July 2022) example to dominate headlines has been the “Rwanda policy” where single men arriving illegally into the UK were to be sent to Rwanda to have their asylum application processed there, with no hope of return. As of May 2022, the UK has taken in around 65,700 Ukrainian refugees, one of the lowest rates per capita across Europe. According to Home Office statistics, there were 37,562 asylum applications in the year ending September 2021, the top nationality being Iran. The recent increase in asylum applications is linked to a higher number of arrivals by boat. Faced with near impossible visa and family reunion requirements, there is a lack of safe passage to the UK. Many are forced to make the deadly channel crossing from the North of France, where at least 44 people died or went missing in 2021. For those that survive the journey, there are many practical difficulties with the asylum process itself. 62% of all people seeking asylum wait longer than 6 months for a decision. Unable to apply for the right to work, many people rely on state aid which only amounts to an average of £5.84 per day. A number of charities attempt to fill the gap in face of these policies.

With changing temperatures, the UK has cool rainy winters and warm rainy or humid summers. However in the summer of 2022, during the heatwave, the temperatures reached 40ºc, a number never seen before on this territory.

The current COVID-19 regulations for travel to the UK can be found at https://www.gov.uk/. Before and during your volunteer placement in the UK, it is important to keep up with your specific charity to find out about changing day-to-day regulations.

Learn more and stay updated about the situation in the UK:

Moldova